Draconian” VISA laws separate Islington couple at Christmas

Mr and Mrs Sykes at their wedding day at Islington Town Hall

Mr and Mrs Sykes at their wedding day at Islington Town Hall - Credit: Archant

A newly-married couple will spend their first Christmas in wedlock on opposite sides of the world due to “cruel” visa laws.

Disabled John Sykes, 60, of Riversdene, Highbury, and his Canadian wife Sharon will be apart over the festive period – and the foreseeable future – because his benefits do not meet the financial requirement for a spousal visa.

Although he worked as an engineer for 30 years, Mr Sykes became homeless after the collapse of his first marriage and later suffered a stroke which has left him unable to work.

He thought his life had made a dramatic turnaround after his wedding at Islington Town Hall in July, having met his wife through mutual friends two years ago.

But he hasn’t got the happy ending he dreamed of as his disability benefits fall short of the £18,600 needed for her to join him in the UK, and the Home Office has rejected the visa application.

Even if Mrs Sykes, 52, was able to move to England, she would not be able to work for a further five years – forcing the couple to live off her husband’s benefits.

Mr Sykes said he was “devastated” about the situation, adding: “This is a really depressing time for us. Don’t the government realise that they are ruining peoples’ lives? We’re two people and we’re married. We just want to be together.”

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His wife, a writer who has compiled several historical books on Stoke Newington during visits to the UK, said: “The biggest contradiction is in the laws: one says that a person on disability benefits is not allowed to earn outside income and the immigration law is telling us that he has to have outside income in order to have enough to get married.

“I don’t know if the appeal is a battle we can win or afford.”

To date, the couple, who have now been apart for 10 weeks, have spent £9,000 on airfares, phone calls and posting documents across seas for Mrs Sykes’ VISA application, which cost between £600 and £1,000.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, who is looking into the case, spoke about the “cruelty” of the current regulations.

He said: “This causes unbelievable levels of stress and misery to families who can’t meet the arbitrary restrictions set by the government.

“This is unfair and unfeeling towards people we should be helping, in uniting families and partners, not dividing them.”

According to a study conducted by the support group Migrants Rights, under the current regulations, 47 per cent of British working people earn less than the amount needed to bring a foreign husband or wife to the UK. And it’s estimated that approximately 17,000 families are effected each year by this problem.

A Home Office spokesman said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.”

Mr and Mrs Sykes are in the process of writing to the Prime Minister and the Queen to hear their case.

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